Krampus ()

When my kids were younger, they had a penchant for exhibiting some of their less than desirable behaviors right before Christmas. I would pick up a phone, hold a conversation with Santa and explain why he didn’t need to stop at our house. Apologies from my kids inevitably followed. In Germany, one doesn’t need to threaten a phone call to Santa. You just need to mention one word to keep them on the straight and narrow: Krampus.

Who or what is Krampus?

Krampus is the cloven hoofed, half-man, half-goat, horned wingman to St. Nicholas. Believed to be the son of the Norse god Hel (caretaker of the underworld), this demonic being is the deliverer of evil to the children on Santa’s naughty list. The sole purpose of Krampus is to scare these unsuspecting little ones into good behavior. Depending on the degree of mischief, Krampus will either smack them on the legs with a bundle of birch branches, whip them into shape or, in the worst-case scenario, bundle them up into a sack and drag them back to his lair in the underworld.

The legend of Krampus pre-dates Christianity as a pagan myth. Because of his controversial tactics and where he resides, many attempts have been made to banish him from society. During the 1300s, the Catholic church tried to outlaw Krampus celebrations, as they felt Krampus was akin to Satan. In the early 20th century, the ruling conservative party in Austria tried to get rid of him to no avail. Today, Krampus is alive and well. Thanks to the 2015 movie “Krampus,” his reach extends beyond the European borders and has catapulted him into global fame.


You may be asking, “When does Krampus make an appearance?” Krampus usually celebrates during Krampuslauf on Dec. 5, on the eve of St. Nicholas Day. This spectacle occurs through city centers and consists of a gaggle of Krampuses in varying states of inebriation parading through the streets. They’ll often chase or sometimes whack spectators with branches to get their message across. If you offer Krampus a shot of his favorite beverage (schnapps), you just might gain favor with him. Krampuslauf celebrations are popular throughout Germany and Austria, especially in Bavaria and the Tyrol region.

When the little ones head to bed, they leave out a shoe or sock in hopes of St. Nicholas filling it with treats and goodies. With visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, St. Nicholas and Krampus tag team and get to work. If they are on the nice list, the odds are high that St. Nick will fill them with trinkets and sweets. Those on the naughty list will likely find a shoe or stocking full of coal or twigs courtesy of Krampus, which is honestly a better option than being dragged into the underworld.

If your children start acting up, give them this subtle reminder: “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why,” Krampus is coming to town.

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